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The vast majority of women who are pro-choice and Republican adhere to the conservative philosophy of a strong national defense, limited taxation and minimal government intrusion into individual rights.

Pro-choice Republicans have beliefs consistent with the basic principles of the Republican Party. Abortion is a personal decision made best by the individual, not the government. We promote reproductive health as policy rather than politics while encouraging personal responsibility through family planning initiatives. Women's reproductive health-care choices should not depend on which political party is in power.

Many Virginians assume there is no room in the Republican Party for pro-choice women because, for far too long, pro-choice Republicans have been silent compared to those in the party with a different view on abortion. Fortunately, change is underway. Pro-choice Republicans are organizing and becoming vocal throughout Virginia. Their goal is to nominate and elect pro-choice officials who respect a woman's right to choose as well as protect us from terrorism, keep our economy strong and deliver efficient, not expansive government.

During the 2002 session of the Virginia General Assembly, pro-choice Republicans were frustrated watching Republican legislators use their elected position to promote their own personal social and religious agenda, at the expense of the agenda supported by the majority of Virginians.

Over the summer, Virginians witnessed an embarrassing sexual-harassment dispute involving former Speaker of the House S. Vance Wilkins, R-Amherst, and yet another example of how some Republican legislators' view women's issues. For instance, Delegate Frank Hargrove Sr., R-Hanover, said Wilkins' accuser was just a "gold digger and an opportunist." Delegate Harry Parrish, R-Manassas, said, "She could have stopped it at any time. All she had to do would be to slap his face. She may have brought it on herself." This sort of attitude often sets the tone and is reflected in their view on social issues. It is clear some people still don't get it.

Last year, the Republican National Committee generated great fanfare by announcing a drive to recruit women, even creating a Web site specifically for women. Unfortunately, the site does not represent the views of the majority of Republican women. While it misleadingly supports "choice" in health care for women, it does not speak for Republican women who support "choice" on the issue of abortion. We have a long way to go in making official party messages reflect the true opinions of Republicans, especially women.

Being pro-choice does not equate to being liberal and being anti-choice does not equate to being conservative. While social extremists in both political parties have attempted with some success to redefine the terms liberal and conservative, it remains true that a person may be a pro-choice liberal or a pro-choice conservative. Many women in the Republican Party are fiscal conservatives and pro-choice on reproductive issues.

The answer is for women and the moderate majority to get involved in the nominating process in order to nominate and elect pro-choice Republicans. It is through the manipulation of this process that social conservatives have achieved their goal of electing Republicans who support their agenda. Now is the time for pro-choice Republicans to get involved and return the Republican Party to the basic principles of limited government and individual liberty. It is time to take women's reproductive health-care issues out of politics. S

Katherine B. Waddell is chairman of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition of Virginia. Web site: http://www.gopchoice.org, www.gopchoice.org, e-mail: va@rpcc.org

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.


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